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24/09/2022

Improving the prevention, diagnosis and treatment of childhood and adult cancer, among the objectives of Vall d'Hebron research

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24/09/2022

On World Cancer Research Day, we highlight the impact of VHIR projects in the field of oncology.

In recent years, survival among cancer patients has been progressively increasing. Although it is still one of the main causes of mortality in our population, especially in cases with more aggressive tumors, thanks to research we have achieved that in most cases patients survive if they are diagnosed in early stages. Research into the pathophysiological mechanisms of the disease is key to improving its prevention and early diagnosis, as well as for the discovery of new therapies. It is also essential to raise awareness of the importance of prevention, especially considering that by 2040 the number of people diagnosed with cancer is expected to increase by 40% to 60%.

On World Cancer Research Day, we present the most relevant lines of research and projects in this line by the Vall d'Hebron Campus. Proof of the work carried out by researchers at Vall d'Hebron Institute of Oncology (VHIO) and Vall d'Hebron Research Institute (VHIR) are the 635 publications on cancer in scientific journals and the 1162 clinical trials that were underway during 2021.

Oncology, one of the main research lines at VHIR

Within the new scientific structure of VHIR, based on eCORE (from the Catalan espais col·laboratius de recerca – “collaborative research spaces”) focused on solving the main challenges in the field of health, we find the Cancer eCORE, formed by 31 principal investigators leading a team of 187 professionals (66% women and 34% men). All of them work in different lines of research, focusing their efforts on studying the mechanisms of tumor origin and progression and translating this research into improving cancer prevention, diagnosis, prognosis and therapy.

The research lines of the eCORE groups include major cancers such as melanoma, breast, lung, prostate, ovarian, endometrial, laryngeal and pharyngeal cancers, as well as pediatric tumors, with the aim of improving the condition and quality of life of patients through:

  • Biomedical research on cancer stem cells, the study of new cell signaling pathways that control cancer cell proliferation and differentiation, and the molecular mechanisms of metastasis.
  • The development of innovative solutions, including the use of new biomarkers, the design of new software and the application of artificial intelligence, the improvement of immunotherapy, early diagnosis technologies and advances in liquid biopsy.
  • Innovation in new drugs and drug targeting and delivery systems, not only by developing new molecules, but also by repositioning existing drugs.
  • The use of personalized medicine to guide the treatment of patients according to the molecular alterations of their tumors.

To find solutions to unmet needs in oncology, during 2021 and so far in 2022, through this program of excellence in basic, translational and clinical research, VHIR research groups working in cancer have signed 200 collaboration agreements both nationally and internationally with various research centers and public universities, patient associations and private companies in the biotechnology and pharmaceutical sectors.

The translation of basic research into solutions for cancer patients is also reflected in the 12 patent families in oncology that VHIR groups have applied for in the last 5 years and the participation in the creation of spin-offs such as MIMARK Diagnostics, which has developed a diagnostic test to detect endometrial cancer, which is the fourth most common cancer and sixth in mortality rate.

One of the examples of the latest work within eCORE Cancer is the one led by the Childhood Cancer and Blood Disorders group at VHIR, in collaboration with several eCORE-Cancer groups, where they demonstrate the efficacy against neuroblastoma of a new drug directed against the KIF11 protein, a regulator of cell division that is frequently altered in tumors, both adult and childhood. In the field of melanoma, the Biomedical Research in Melanoma, Animal Models and Cancer group at VHIR studies the tumor mechanisms that inhibit the anti-tumor immune response and the repositioning of existing drugs to treat this type of tumor.

Among the latest results of eCORE also highlights the study of a new inhibitor capable of blocking pathways of resistance to standard cancer treatments and could increase the efficacy of chemotherapy or immunotherapy. This work is co-led by the Translational Molecular Pathology group of VHIR and the Pharmaceutical Chemistry group (GQF) of the IQS School of Engineering (Ramon Llull University).

This year, Vall d'Hebron has also organized the first world congress on the ERK5 protein in cancer. This meeting, promoted by Dr. José M. Lizcano, head of the Protein Kinases in Cancer Research group, and Dr. Miquel Segura, principal investigator of the Childhood Cancer and Blood Disorders group, brought together most of the experts working on this protein worldwide.

Your support is essential to keep research alive. From Vall d'Hebron we continue working to find solutions and care for people suffering from a disease such as cancer. You are essential to continue advancing in improving the quality of life of our patients. Make it possible with your donation at https://vhc.cat/dona.

The research lines of the Cancer eCORE include melanoma, breast, lung, prostate, ovarian, endometrial, laryngeal and pharyngeal cancers, as well as pediatric tumors, with the aim of improving the condition and quality of life of patients.

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Lucas Moreno Martín-Retortillo

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